A tip to Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith led to the arrest Sunday afternoon on a houseboat on the Apalachicola River of a fugitive wanted on multiple counts of sex trafficking involving a young girl.
Kevin Wyatt, 47, was cuffed and taken into custody about 3 p.m. after he was found by the sheriff and two deputies, together with a three-man crew from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alone on a houseboat in a creek off the Apalachicola River, near Gardner Landing off State Road 65.
As Smith and the deputy approached on foot through the marsh, Wyatt was standing on the back of the houseboat. “As soon as he heard the boat he ran inside, to the back of the houseboat,” Smith said.
The sheriff said Wyatt complied with his order to come out. “He was not armed and did not resist,” Smith said.
Like his girlfriend, Celeste Chambers, 38, who is in jail in Tallahassee on similar charges, Wyatt faces seven felony counts in Gadsden County, one of them, sexual assault with a weapon or forcible sexual battery with a victim 12 years or older, carries a possible life sentence.
He also faces two counts of a first degree felony for sexual assault by a custodian of victim between ages 12 and 18; two counts of of a second degree felony of lewd and lascivious behavior towards a youth between age 12 and 18; and two third-degree felonies, for soliciting a sexual act by a custodian of a victim under age 18, and for abuse of a child without great bodily harm.
After Chambers was arrested Sept. 15 in Leon County, a Tallahassee television station broadcast a photo of Wyatt, which led to the tip that led to his capture.
An anonymous source sent a private message to Smith on Facebook, telling him they had seen the story on television and knew where Wyatt was.
On Sunday Smith met with the tipster, who told him where they thought Wyatt was. “They seemed very credible,” he said. “They just wanted to get a bad guy off the street.”
Smith said it appeared some friends were letting Wyatt stay on their boat. The sheriff said no evidence has come forward to indicate the houseboat’s owners were aiding and abetting a wanted person.
“We have zero tolerance for sex trafficking in Franklin County. Don't be on the run and come to Franklin County," Smith said.
Sgt. Angelie Hightower, with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, said information from the local schools led her office to open an investigation in March 2016.
Court documents in Chambers’ case show that from 2003 to 2016, the child had been offered to adult men in exchange for drugs. Hightower said the sexual activities mainly occurred in the Big Bend area, perhaps extending to as far away as the Jacksonville area.
Hightower said the girl has lived for more than a year with her grandmother, the mother of her biological father. “She’s doing fine,” she said.